Gosnold signature discovery hailed
FOUR centuries ago next month, Suffolk explorer Bartholomew Gosnold founded the first permanent English settlement in America.His legacy - Jamestown in Virginia - led him to become one of the world's most renowned travellers, and the focus of a summer of celebrations both here and in the US marking the anniversary of the new colony.
FOUR centuries ago next month, Suffolk explorer Bartholomew Gosnold founded the first permanent English settlement in America.
His legacy - Jamestown in Virginia - led him to become one of the world's most renowned travellers, and the focus of a summer of celebrations both here and in the US marking the anniversary of the new colony.
Despite his eternal bequest, the autograph of the great adventurer was thought to be a piece of history lost over time.
But a member of staff at the Bury St Edmunds Records Office has been able to add her own small stamp on the legend of Gosnold.
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Because, while researching his link with the historic market town, search room assistant Liz Wigmore discovered a 16th Century deed including the signature and seal of Gosnold himself.
“I was carrying out research for an exhibition we are holding in May as part of the 400th anniversary celebrations, and was looking at every reference to Gosnold, when I came across a reference to his father, Anthony Gosnold,” said Mrs Wigmore.
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“What I discovered was not only the signature and seal of Anthony, but of Bartholomew, and his father-in-law, Robert Golding.
“When I realised what I had found I was so excited, and could not quite believe it.”
All three signatures and seals, which are on a deed charting the sale of an acre and a half of land in Barton Mills in 1597, will now be put on display next month, before being put back in a safe place at the record office.
Mrs Wigmore said: “As far as we know there is no other signature anywhere, and we are thrilled to have discovered it. There are lots of strong links between Suffolk and Gosnold, including the fact all but one of Gosnold's children were baptised at St James' Parish Church, which is now St Edmundsbury Cathedral.
“Up until now I don't know if many people in Suffolk have really taken too much notice of Gosnold, but I think the anniversary celebrations are really going to bring him to the forefront of people's minds.”
In May, residents in Suffolk will be invited to take part in a whole host of celebrations being funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund including open days at Otley Hall, near Ipswich - Gosnold's ancestral home - as well as activities in the Abbey Gardens in Bury and on the town's Angel Hill, culminating in a special commemorative service in St Edmundsbury Cathedral.
America will also be in full swing, with events taking place across Virginia. And on May 3 and 4, residents will welcome Queen Elizabeth II when she makes a special visit to Jamestown, which is also due to feature on Channel 4 archaeology programme Time Team in a special episode looking at putting names on the final resting places of some of Jamestown's first settlers.
In a statement, the Virginian governor, Timothy Kaine, said: “On behalf of all Virginians, my family and I will be honored to host Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, in May.
“We are pleased Her Majesty has chosen to visit during this momentous year for Virginia. Her Majesty's first visit to the United States in 1957 coincided with the 350th anniversary of Jamestown, and for the Queen to spend two days in Virginia during her first visit to the United States in 16 years is extraordinary.
“This Royal visit speaks to the importance of Jamestown to both of our countries, reaffirms the strong, historic ties between our nations, and demonstrates a mutual commitment to reinforce these connections as we go forward together.”
Gosnold was born in Grundesburgh in 1572, to Anthony Gosnold and Dorothy Bacon. He studied at Cambridge, before becoming the commander of the Concord at the age of just 30. He navigated the coast from Maine to Narragansett Bay, naming Cape Cod and several islands including Martha's Vineyard - a small island off Virginia named after his one-year old daughter, who died in infancy just before he left Britain.
In 1606 he commanded the God Speed, which carried some of the first settlers to Virginia.